Something’s afoot: H-F running club seeking new members
By Ginger Brashinger Correspondent March 26, 2014 9:44AM
Homewood-Flossmoor Community Running Club cofounders Mike Brunette (center, holding his son, Marlon) and Mark Madison pose at one of the club's meeting places next to the Flossmoor Brewery. The club is celebrating its second anniversary and is looking for new members. | Ginger Brashinger~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 28, 2014 7:24AM
All runners are created equal, according to Mike Brunette and Mark Madison, a couple of guys from the Homewood-Flossmoor area. A couple of years ago, they had an idea for a running club reflecting that belief.
They said they saw firsthand the need for such a club.
Brunette, 34, a former Homewood resident who joined the Chicago Area Runners Association in 2008 when he became interested in marathon running, said that through CARA, he saw the benefits of running with a group.
“It makes you accountable and it builds friendships,” Brunette said.
Then Brunette met Madison, 44, in 2011 at a running club social event coordinated by Flossmoor resident Jennifer Molski.
Brunette and Madison joined the group for about a year but decided they wanted to “expand” beyond the group’s structure of division by gender and ability.
“I said to Mark that ‘We should try to make this for everybody,’ ” Brunette said.
The idea was to create a coed group that accepted all paces for all runners in the area, and they thought there were a lot of people who might like the idea.
“When Mike and I were running in the morning at 5:30 or 6 o’clock, we saw other people running,” Madison said. “We thought, ‘Why isn’t there something that gets (them together)?’ ”
Brunette used social media and newspaper interviews to get the word out that there was a new running club in town that would be all-inclusive.
An April 2012 running date was set with the start at the Irwin Park fountain in Homewood, and when a half-dozen people showed up, the Homewood-Flossmoor Community Running Club was up and running.
Three- to six-mile routes were mapped out on the group’s Facebook page for Wednesday evenings and longer runs for Saturdays, keeping the new kids on the block in mind.
“We always tried to map a short run, a two- to three-mile route so we could get the beginners,” Brunette said.
Brunette said as he planned the club, “a lot of my focus was on the family.”
A stay-at-home dad, Brunette pushed his son, Marlon, in a stroller as he ran and wanted to make sure other parents with young kids felt comfortable about doing the same.
“I hoped it would encourage others to come out with their strollers,” Brunette said. ”At this point ... there are plenty of people running with strollers.”
A move to Libertyville in September 2013 necessitated by a job change for Brunette’s wife, Melissa, put Madison in charge of the club.
Madison took over the Facebook page on which he posts routes for the runners and plans for the club’s social events.
Carrie Bonanotte, of Homewood, handles routes for the stroller runners and people who “wanted to just come out to run or walk,” Madison said.
Madison said the club, soon to celebrate its second anniversary, will maintain its all-inclusive quality and keep its family focus, too.
Madison held runs in the summer at the Homewood-Flossmoor High School outdoor track, where people could place their kids in the center of the track to play together while adults ran. Meeting places such as the Dairy Queen in Homewood offered a mom or dad with kids a place to wait for a running spouse/parent and then enjoy themselves as a family afterward.
A future focus is on community. Club members already have worked together in support of charities, Madison said, and are planning similar events.
“I want to take this to where we also help the community out,” Madison said.
The club will continue to vary its meeting places throughout Homewood and Flossmoor, and social events will be scheduled to support a number of local businesses, Madison said.
His immediate goal is to build the club’s membership.
Nearly two dozen runners show up on Wednesday evenings and about a dozen on Saturday mornings, Madison said, but there are nearly 300 “likes” on the club’s Facebook page.
When he asks people why they don’t come out but “like” the page, the answers are usually that they “don’t know anyone” or are concerned about their own ability to run.
To remedy that concern, the Homewood-Flossmoor Community Running Club will hold a “Meet and Greet” at 3 p.m. April 6 at the 5th Quarter Tap & Press Room Eatery, 18105 Dixie Highway, Homewood.
Current club members with similar paces will sit together so potential new members can find the group that best fits their running style, Madison said.
“This way, they’re not showing up ‘blind’ to the first run,” Madison said. “The idea behind the meet and greet is to bring them all out to us ... and they can meet the people who run now. They can talk to us and get to know us.
“Our motto was ‘We would not leave anyone behind.’ ”
For more information or to RSVP by April 3, visit the Homewood-Flossmoor Running Club Facebook page or email Madison at firstname.lastname@example.org.